HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Hartford will share some duties for college basketball's premiere event this week.
Part of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament's Division I first and second rounds will be played at the XL Center on March 21 and 23.
The teams selected to play at the venue include No. 6 Villanova, No. 11 St. Mary's, No. 3 Purdue, No. 14 Old Dominion, No. 5 Marquette, No. 12 Murray State, No. 4 Florida State and No. 13 Vermont.
Four games will be played on Thursday starting at 2 p.m.
Two games will be played during the second round on Saturday. The times for those games will be released after the first round games are finished.
“This is an exciting time for the building, City of Hartford and the entire State of Connecticut”, said Chris Lawrence, XL Center general manager. “This is one of the premier sporting events in our country and we have an opportunity to showcase ourselves as a premier entertainment destination. We’ve had some great events here in the past, but the excitement for this is unmatched. It should be a great four days.”
It's been almost 20 years since March Madness has been in the city. The XL Center announced Hartford as a venue last month.
Wednesday, fans can attend an all day open practice event at the XL Center. The eight teams that will be playing there will have 30 minutes to practice in front of fans. Admission for the practice is free.
Businesses are expected to be booming.
Lunch and happy hour specials will be available.
Organizers expect 25,000 people to attend the games. The event is also expected to generate an estimated $7.7 million for the greater Hartford region.
They also said many downtown restaurants and bars will offer special discounts and tournament-related promotions.
“We’re expecting a big crowd,” said Bob Colangelo Jr., Managing Partner at Max Bibo’s
Open practice is Wednesday when each team gets 40 minutes of open court time.
Max Bibo’s on Trumbull Street will add staff, extend hours, and their menu.
“We’re hoping to capture a crowd that’s looking for something quick to eat and you know our main thing is soups, salads, sandwiches,” said Colangelo Jr.
Pratt Street will be shut down for a party starting at noon on Thursday.
A pop-up pub with Hartford brewers and a distillery will take over an empty store front, and just a few doors down large 75-inch TVs are going up.
“Even if you’re not a basketball fan, I think that’s the one cool thing about this event is the brackets and upsets and alma maters and people can really tie into all that stuff,” said Chris Lawrence, General Manager, XL Center & Pratt and Whitney Stadium.
But the real fans can’t wait to get a look at the impressive talent coming to town.
“It’ll be worth it. Once in a lifetime,” said Tighe.
The Connecticut Convention and Sports Bureau said it worked hard to secure the event and won the bid in 2017.
In recent years, it hosted athletic conferences and competitions at the XL Center, putting it in the perfect position.
Some Hartford Parking Authority and LAZ parking garages and surface lots will be offering a special event parking rate of $10 from March 20 to March 23.
The Dash Shuttle, CT Transit's free circulator bus in downtown Hartford, will operate with extended hours on March 20 and March 23rd.
Fans visiting from out of town can learn more about the City of Hartford and all it has to offer at the Hartford Business Improvement District’s information booth at the XL Center throughout all tournament sessions.
More information can also be found on the XL Center's website here.